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Ultimate Duck Calling Challenge

Is a caller's true test on the stage or in the blind? Both, claim many of today's champions, who say that competing in contests makes them better hunters.
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Story at a Glance
  • Your contest routine and duck hunting are two different things.
  • The difference between competition calling and calling in the field is that you have to put all the basic calls into a routine.
  • Duck calling is like anything else - the younger you start, the better off you are going to be.
  • Many calling contests are won and lost, in the last few seconds.

Only Brent Easley, of East End, Arkansas, has had an answer for this Hawkeye onslaught of late, winning the 2001 crown at the upstart age of 21. Stuttgart native John Stephens, a two-time world champion (1995 and 1998), has found his third title elusive—finishing second the past three years by a single point on each occasion.

"I really can't explain it," Boyle says of the Iowa influence. "Some people joke about it and say it must be something in the air, or something in the water. We blow basic, fundamental stuff. We don't get off the beaten path, and I think that's why we have done very well."

Only once before in contest history has a specific region outside the state of Arkansas dominated so dramatically—that stretch coming from 1963-1967 when Mel DeLang (the first Iowa champion), Mick Lacy, John Liston (a two-time winner), and Fred Harvey pieced together a string of five titles. Lacy, Liston, and Harvey all hailed from western Illinois—as the mallard flies, less than an hour from DeLang's home in Burlington.

Not to be forgotten in this current surge of Hawkeye duck calling fever are 1978 champion Richard Schultz of Cedar Rapids and 1980 champion Dan Sprague of Buffalo, Iowa. And don't look now, but among the national circuit's up-and-comers is the reigning Iowa state champ, Dan Guillaume, of Council Bluff, who finished 10th runner-up in Stuttgart a year ago and is currently ranked among the world's top 20 competition duck callers.

So, is Boyle feeling the heat to repeat? "Really, there's not any more pressure this time than any other time," he says. "I honestly start practicing seven days before a contest, just to get my wind down. I don't want to peak before the contest. People come over and say that I must practice for hours every day. It's like they think I just sit around and that's all I do."

Past world champion duck callers by state

Arkansas—Harry Wieman, Stuttgart (1937, 1938); Kenneth McCollum, Stuttgart (1939); M.T. McCollum, Stuttgart (1941); Clyde Hancock, Stuttgart (1943); Howard T. Conrey, Stuttgart (1944); D.M. (Chick) Major, Stuttgart (1945); Louis (Red) Wilhelm, Stuttgart (1946); J.E. (Jake) Gartner, Stuttgart (1947, 1948, 1949); Pat Stephens, Stuttgart (1955, 1956); Edward L. Holt, North Little Rock (1968, 1969, 1970); Butch Richenback, Stuttgart, 1972); Mike Starks, Little Rock (1975); Trey Crawford, North Little Rock and Mayflower (1976, 1986, 1993); David Starks, Stuttgart (1981, 1984); Johnny Mahfouz, Stuttgart (1988); Blake Haynes, Pine Bluff (1992); John Stephens, Stuttgart (1995, 1998); Rick Dunn, Beebe (1997); Brent Easley, East End (2001).

California—David Jayne, Clovis (1987).

Illinois—Mick Lacy, Knoxville (1964); John Liston, Knoxville (1965, 1966); Fred Harvey, Galesburg (1967).

Iowa—Mel DeLang, Burlington (1963); Richard Schultz, Cedar Rapids (1978); Dan Sprague, Buffalo (1980); Barnie Calef, Cedar Rapids (1989, 1999, 2000); Bernie Boyle, Danville (2002, 2004); Todd Copley, Des Moines (2003).

Lousiana—Fred Parnell, Baton Rouge (1953).

Michigan—Art Beauchamp, Flint (1954).

Mississippi—Thomas E. Walsh, Greenville (1936); Herman Callouet, Greenville (1942); W. C. Cross, Greenville (1957, 1958).

Missouri—Ed Landreth, Joplin (1960); Pete Claett, Kansas City (1961); Sam Harper, Grandview (1982); Mike Keller, Kansas City (1985).

Nebraska—Larry Largent, Shelton (1971); Jim James, Omaha (1996).

Tennesse—W.H. Claypool, Memphis (1940); Herb Parsons, Sommerville (1950, 1951); W.C. Cowan, Memphis (1952); Mike McLemore, Hendersonville (1973, 1974); Don Ansley, Nashville (1983); Roy Rhodes, Germantown (1990); Buck Gardner, Collierville (1994).

Texas—James Fernandez, Port Arthur (1959); Charlie Stepan, Port Arthur (1962); Mike McLemore, Hallsville (1977); Vernon Solomon, Marshall (1979).

Wisconsin—Tim Gesch, Woodruff (1991).

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